Best bets for the Masters and tournament preview

April 5, 2023 07:26 PM

The Masters

The 87th edition of the Masters takes place this week with many intriguing storylines.

Can tournament co-favorite and OWGR No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (7-1) become the first player to defend his Masters title and win back-to-back green jackets since Tiger Woods (70-1) in 2002? And speaking of Tiger, who is making just his second start in 2023, how will his body hold up through potentially four grueling rounds?

There is also the annual story, at least since 2015, of Rory McIlroy (7-1) attempting to win the final jewel of the career Grand Slam. Meanwhile, Jon Rahm (9-1) has already won three times in 2023 but has cooled slightly from his January-February torrid pace.

Will there be a first-time major champion from the lengthy "best player to never win a major" list, which includes Patrick Cantlay (20-1), Xander Schauffele (25-1), Tony Finau (25-1), Max Homa (30-1), Cameron Young (30-1), Sungjae Im (35-1), Viktor Hovland (35-1), Sam Burns (40-1) and Will Zalatoris (45-1)?

Then, there are best friends Jordan Spieth (18-1), who probably should have more than the one green jacket he won in 2015, and Justin Thomas (22-1), who has two top-8 finishes here in the last three years.

Last weekend, Corey Conners (40-1) won the Valero Texas Open as a 20-1 shot and is looking to become the first player to win the week before the Masters and follow it up with a win at Augusta since Phil Mickelson (250-1) did it in 2006. With Conners' victory at 20-1, 10 of the 14 PGA Tour events in 2023 have been won by a price of 28-1 or shorter.

Finally, there are the LIV Golf players who find themselves reunited with their former PGA Tour and DP World Tour peers for the first time since the last major at the British Open last July. Cameron Smith (22-1) won that last major at St. Andrews but has gotten off to a slow start in 2023. Dustin Johnson (28-1) won here in 2020 and has three career top-5s and five career top-10s at Augusta. Brooks Koepka (35-1) has seen his price cut in half over the past week or so, which included a victory at last weekend's LIV event in Orlando.

The Event

The Masters began in 1934 and has been held at Augusta National Golf Club each year. Since 1949, a green jacket is awarded to the champion who must return it to the clubhouse one year after his victory, although it remains his personal property and is stored with other champions' jackets in a specially designated cloakroom. The winner also receives a sterling replica of the Masters trophy and a gold medal to go along with the green jacket.

The Masters was started by amateur champion Bobby Jones and investment banker Clifford Roberts. After his Grand Slam in 1930, Jones acquired the former plant nursery and co-designed Augusta National with course architect Alister MacKenzie.

Here is the 88-player field for the 2023 Masters

(Additional qualifying categories in parentheses)

1. All past winners of the Masters

Fred Couples, Sergio García, Dustin Johnson (12,18), Zach Johnson, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Hideki Matsuyama (13,17,18,19), Phil Mickelson (4), Larry Mize, José María Olazábal, Patrick Reed, Scottie Scheffler (5,12,13,16,17,18,19), Charl Schwartzel (12), Adam Scott (17,18,19), Vijay Singh, Jordan Spieth (16,17,18,19), Bubba Watson, Mike Weir, Tiger Woods, Danny Willett (12)

Past winners not expected to play: Tommy Aaron, Jack Burke Jr., Ángel Cabrera, Charles Coody, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Raymond Floyd, Trevor Immelman, Jack Nicklaus, Mark O'Meara, Gary Player, Craig Stadler, Tom Watson, Ian Woosnam, Fuzzy Zoeller

2. Recent winners of the U.S. Open (2018–2022)

Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Fitzpatrick (17,18,19), Brooks Koepka (4), Jon Rahm (16,17,18,19), Gary Woodland

3. Recent winners of the British Open (2018-2022)

Shane Lowry (12,18,19), Francesco Molinari, Collin Morikawa (4,12,17,18,19), Cameron Smith (5,12,17,18,19)

4. Recent winners of the PGA Championship (2018-2022)

Justin Thomas (5,12,17,18,19)

5. Recent winners of The Players Championship (2021-2023)

6. The winner of the gold medal at the Olympic Games[a]

7. The winner and runner-up in the 2022 U.S. Amateur Championship

Sam Bennett (a), Ben Carr (a)

8. The winner of the 2022 Amateur Championship

Aldrich Potgieter (a)

9. The winner of the 2022 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship

Harrison Crowe (a)

10. The winner of the 2023 Latin America Amateur Championship

Mateo Fernández de Oliveira (a)

11. The winner of the 2022 U.S. Mid-Amateur Golf Championship

Matthew McClean (a)

12. The leading 12 players, and those tying for 12th place, from the 2022 Masters

Cameron Champ, Corey Conners (16,17,18,19), Sungjae Im (17,18,19), Rory McIlroy (14,16,17,18,19), Will Zalatoris (13,15,16,17,18,19)

13. The leading four players, and those tying for fourth place, in the 2022 U.S. Open

14. The leading four players, and those tying for fourth place, in the 2022 British Open

Tommy Fleetwood (18,19), Viktor Hovland (17,18,19), Cameron Young (15,17,18,19)

15. The leading four players, and those tying for fourth place, in the 2022 PGA Championship

Mito Pereira (18)

16. Winners of PGA Tour events[b] between the 2022 Masters and the 2023 Masters

Keegan Bradley (18,19), Sam Burns (17,18,19), Patrick Cantlay (17,18,19), Tony Finau (17,18,19), Russell Henley (18,19), Max Homa (17,18,19), Mackenzie Hughes (18), Billy Horschel (17,18,19), Si Woo Kim (19), Tom Kim (18,19), Chris Kirk (19), Kurt Kitayama (18,19), K.H. Lee (17,18,19), Taylor Moore (19), Séamus Power (18,19), Justin Rose (19), J.T. Poston (17,19). Xander Schauffele (17,18,19), Adam Svensson

17. All players who qualified for the 2022 Tour Championship

Brian Harman (18,19), Tom Hoge (18,19), Joaquín Niemann (18,19), Scott Stallings, Sepp Straka (18,19), Sahith Theegala (18,19)

Aaron Wise (18,19) will not play.

18. The leading 50 players on the Official World Golf Ranking as of Dec. 31, 2022

Abraham Ancer (19), Ryan Fox (19), Talor Gooch, Tyrrell Hatton (19), Kevin Kisner (19), Jason Kokrak, Adrian Meronk, Kevin Na, Alex Norén (19), Louis Oosthuizen, Thomas Pieters (19), Harold Varner III

19. The leading 50 players on the Official World Golf Ranking as of March 27, 2023

Jason Day, Harris English, Min Woo Lee, Keith Mitchell

20. Special invitations

Kazuki Higa, Gordon Sargent (a)

The Course

Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., has hosted the Masters since 1934 and this will be the 87th Masters (canceled from 1943-1945 due to World War II). ANGC was designed in 1933 by Dr. Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones. It is a par-72 of 7,545 yards (eighth longest on tour) that plays longer than its listed yardage. The average round score last year was +1.14 over par (second toughest on tour). Augusta National usually plays to its standard firm and fast conditions. ANGC is a classical, undulating meadowlands track. Water is in play on five holes. The wide (50 yards average, second widest on PGA Tour) fairways are Overseeded Perennial Ryegrass with Bermudagrass- base. The rough isn't very thick (1.38 inches), but there are trees and pine straws that provide obstacles after errant tee shots.

Meanwhile, the greens are Bentgrass that will be fast and slick and run from 13-14 feet on the stimpmeter, so shots not in the right spots can fall into tough, shaved run-offs. The lack of rough around the green complexes creates indecision both with approach shots and recovery chips. Longer hitters certainly benefit here, and players must take advantage of the par-5s, but on-target approach shots are what put you in position to win here.

There are 44 bunkers and six water hazards and a whole lot of pine straw scattered across the grounds. Unless there’s an untimely tree in the way, however, the pine straw isn’t the end of the world. The Bentgrass greens are around tour average in size; the major difference is the wild undulations. These are some of the hilliest and fastest putting surfaces the players will encounter all year.

There has also been over two inches of rain in the last week, which will soften up the fairways, making the course play even longer and giving an advantage to players with more carry distance off the tee. And with cooler temperatures in the 45-60-degree range on the weekend, the ball will not travel as far. This emphasizes even more of a need for distance off the tee.

No course really is a direct comparison nor has a direct correlation to Augusta National, but Muirfield Village, Plantation Course at Kapalua, Bay Hill, Riviera CC, Accordia Golf Narashino, Torrey Pines and Quail Hollow have had the most common characteristics and most common winners.

Masters Recent History/Winners

2022: Scottie Scheffler (-10/278); 16-1

2021: Hideki Matsuyama (-10/278); 45-1

2020: Dustin Johnson (-20/268); 9-1

2019: Tiger Woods (-13/275); 16-1

2018: Patrick Reed (-15/273); 50-1

2017: Sergio Garcia (-9/279); 40-1*

2016: Danny Willett (-5/283); 66-1

2015: Jordan Spieth (-18/270); 10-1

2014: Bubba Watson (-8/280); 25-1

2013: Adam Scott (-9/279); 28-1**

2012: Bubba Watson (-10/278); 50-1***

2011: Charl Schwartzel (-14/274); 90-1

2010: Phil Mickelson (-16/272); 10-1

Playoff win over Justin Rose - *

Playoff win over Angel Cabrera - **

Playoff win over Louis Oosthuizen - ***

Masters Recent Trends

— 10 of the last 11 Masters winners ranked 16th or better in the official World Golf Rankings coming into the tournament (2021: Matsuyama, 25th).

— The past 18 Masters winners have all finished the first round tied for 10th place or better.

— 9 of the last 13 Masters winners had played in at least 3 Masters tournaments before getting the victory. Going back further, this trend used to be at least six trips to Augusta before winning. The point is that experience matters here.

— 7 of the last 13 Masters winners had posted a win earlier that same season.

— 13 of the last 13 Masters winners have posted a top-10 finish that same season.

— 10 of the last 11 Masters winners had at least two top-15 finishes in their three events leading up to the tournament. Matsuyama in 2021 is the lone exception.

— The Masters defending champion has not successfully defended his title since Tiger Woods (2002).

— In 2020, Dustin Johnson became the first World No. 1 to win the Masters since Tiger Woods (2002). Scottie Scheffler repeated the same feat in 2022.

— Dating to 2007, only two event winners the week before the Masters finished top 10 or better at Augusta (Anthony Kim, third in 2010; Jordan Spieth, winner in 2021).

Statistical Analysis

Strokes Gained: Tee To Green gives us an overall sense of how players are performing in terms of driving the ball, hitting approach shots, chipping, bunker play, etc.

Strokes Gained: Tee To Green (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Scottie Scheffler 107.28
  2. Rory McIlroy 86.76
  3. Patrick Cantlay 69.84
  4. Collin Morikawa 69.48
  5. Jon Rahm 61.92
  6. Justin Thomas 57.24
  7. Jason Day 55.80
  8. Tony Finau 54.00
  9. Cameron Young 53.64
  10. Tyrrell Hatton 52.20
  11. Corey Conners 50.04
  12. Will Zalatoris 50.04
  13. Max Homa 45.36
  14. Jordan Spieth 44.28
  15. Keith Mitchell 43.92
  16. Sungjae Im 41.40
  17. Viktor Hovland 40.32
  18. Chris Kirk 39.96
  19. Dustin Johnson 39.24
  20. Si Woo Kim 38.52

Strokes Gained: Approach is always a mainstay in any event, especially a major championship. Over the past eight Masters, the winner has finished 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 5th, 4th and 6th in Strokes Gained: Approach for the week.

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Tom Hoge 51.12
  2. Scottie Scheffler 43.56
  3. Tony Finau 43.20
  4. Max Homa 42.84
  5. Collin Morikawa 41.76
  6. Xander Schauffele 36.72
  7. Jon Rahm 36.00
  8. Talor Gooch 30.60
  9. Cameron Young 29.88
  10. Rory McIlroy 29.52
  11. Corey Conners 27
  12. Jordan Spieth 24.84
  13. Will Zalatoris 24.12
  14. Viktor Hovland 23.76
  15. Mito Pereira 23.76
  16. Gary Woodland 23.04
  17. Tyrrell Hatton 21.96
  18. Adam Svensson 21.60
  19. Patrick Cantlay 21.60
  20. Dustin Johnson 20.52

Augusta National is one of the toughest courses to hit greens (around a 60% rate).

Greens In Regulation (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Mito Pereira 73.4%
  2. Patrick Cantlay 72.6
  3. Scottie Scheffler 71.5
  4. Jon Rahm 71.3
  5. J.T. Poston 71.0
  6. Tony Finau 70.9
  7. Collin Morikawa 70.9
  8. Harold Varner III 70.8
  9. Will Zalatoris 70.1
  10. Joaquin Niemann 69.4
  11. Sepp Straka 69.4
  12. Corey Conners 69.4
  13. Sahith Theegala 68.9
  14. Cameron Young 68.4
  15. Russell Henley 68.4
  16. Brian Harman 68.4
  17. Keith Mitchell 67.8
  18. Gary Woodland 67.8
  19. Keegan Bradley 67.7
  20. Tom Hoge 67.7

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee measures both distance and accuracy, but the fairways at Augusta are some of the widest on tour and the rough is not all that penal, so Driving Distance is a better metric to model off the tee.

Driving Distance (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Rory McIlroy 326.7
  2. Mito Pereira 321.4
  3. Cameron Champ 318.9
  4. Cameron Young 317.0
  5. Jon Rahm 313.5
  6. Harold Varner III 313.4
  7. Gary Woodland 313.2
  8. Will Zalatoris 313.0
  9. Scottie Scheffler 308.8
  10. Keith Mitchell 308.7
  11. Patrick Cantlay 308.6
  12. Adrian Meronk 308.3
  13. Tiger Woods 307.9
  14. Min Woo Lee 306.1
  15. Sam Burns 305.6
  16. Justin Thomas 305.5
  17. Tyrrell Hatton 305.2
  18. Kurt Kitayama 305.0
  19. Matt Fitzpatrick 304.0
  20. Tony Finau 302.9
  21. Joaquin Niemann 302.9

Since 2009, par-5 scoring has accounted for 72% of the eventual winner's total output. Last year, Scottie Scheffler's total score was 10 under par and 8 under of it was on the par-5s. In 2021, Hideki Matsuyama's winning score was 10 under par and he went 11 under on the par-5s.

Strokes Gained Par-5s (Last 50 rounds)

  1. Patrick Cantlay 35.2
  2. Rory McIlroy 34
  3. Sungjae Im 31.8
  4. Cameron Smith 27.6
  5. Xander Schauffele 27.6
  6. Jordan Spieth 24.2
  7. Justin Thomas 23.9
  8. Jon Rahm 22.8
  9. Tony Finau 22.8
  10. Matt Fitzpatrick 22.5
  11. Shane Lowry 21.2
  12. Will Zalatoris 19.1
  13. Bryson DeChambeau 18.4
  14. Scottie Scheffler 17.9
  15. Joaquin Niemann 17.8
  16. Adam Scott 17.3
  17. Talor Gooch 16.8
  18. Dustin Johnson 16.5
  19. Bubba Watson 15.7
  20. Cameron Young 15
  21. Justin Rose 15

Note: This is data for the last 50 rounds in PGA Tour events in order to incorporate and get an indicator for the LIV Golf players.

Five of the par-4s measure 450-500 yards and are amongst the most difficult holes on the course.

Strokes Gained Par-4s 450-500 Yards (Last 50 rounds)

  1. Rory McIlroy 33
  2. Max Homa 29.5
  3. Patrick Cantlay 27.5
  4. Tyrrell Hatton 26.1
  5. Viktor Hovland 25.1
  6. Tony Finau 25
  7. Jason Day 22
  8. Jason Kokrak 21.6
  9. Scottie Scheffler 19.6
  10. Sahith Theegala 18.2
  11. Xander Schauffele 17.6
  12. Dustin Johnson 17.4
  13. Will Zalatoris 16.8
  14. Justin Thomas 16.3
  15. Tom Hoge 15.6
  16. Abraham Ancer 15.2
  17. Sungjae Im 15.1
  18. Bryson DeChambeau 15.1
  19. Jon Rahm 14.9
  20. Collin Morikawa 13.9

Augusta National only yields around 60% for Greens In Regulation, so players will not only need to be deft with the putter, but also with chipping, pitching and bunker play.

Strokes Gained: Around The Green (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Justin Thomas 28.08
  2. Jordan Spieth 18.72
  3. Bryson DeChambeau 17.28
  4. Chris Kirk 16.92
  5. Scottie Scheffler 16.56
  6. Jason Day 15.84
  7. Hideki Matsuyama 15.84
  8. Jon Rahm 14.76
  9. Tommy Fleetwood 14.40
  10. Danny Willett 13.68
  11. Sungjae Im 13.32
  12. Adam Svensson 12.96
  13. Tom Kim 12.6
  14. KH Lee 12.24
  15. Rory McIlroy 11.88
  16. Seamus Power 11.52
  17. Phil Mickelson 11.52
  18. Mito Pereira 10.08
  19. Mackenzie Hughes 9.72
  20. Keith Mitchell 9.72

These greens are some of the fastest and slickest these players will see all year and three-putts can happen in a hurry. Three-putt percentage here at Augusta over the last five years is 4.4%, which is the highest on the PGA Tour.

Three-Putt Avoidance (Last 50 rounds)

  1. Talor Gooch 15.17
  2. Chris Kirk 13.19
  3. Cameron Smith 12.03
  4. Alex Noren 10.53
  5. Keegan Bradley 9.87
  6. Patrick Reed 9.83
  7. Tyrrell Hatton 9.70
  8. Xander Schauffele 9.27
  9. Jason Kokrak 8.77
  10. Scottie Scheffler 8.67
  11. Sam Burns 8.19
  12. Max Homa 7.92
  13. Jason Day 7.4
  14. Sahith Theegala 7.25
  15. Abraham Ancer 6.23
  16. Brian Harman 6.22
  17. Matt Fitzpatrick 6.00
  18. Tony Finau 5.97
  19. Bryson DeChambeau 5.54
  20. Seamus Power 5.51

Augusta National has the most predictive course history of any course on tour.

Strokes Gained Total — Augusta National (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Will Zalatoris 2.9 (8 Rounds)
  2. Dustin Johnson 2.3
  3. Scottie Scheffler 2.3 (12 Rounds)
  4. Jon Rahm 2
  5. Rory McIlroy 1.9
  6. Justin Thomas 1.7
  7. Hideki Matsuyama 1.7
  8. Justin Rose 1.6
  9. Cameron Smith 1.5
  10. Jordan Spieth 1.5
  11. Tony Finau 1.4 (20 Rounds)
  12. Corey Conners 1.3 (18 Rounds)
  13. Collin Morikawa 1.3 (12 Rounds)
  14. Cameron Champ 1.3 (12 Rounds)
  15. Min Woo Lee 1.3 (4 Rounds)
  16. Talor Gooch 1.3 (4 Rounds)
  17. Patrick Reed 1.2
  18. Brooks Koepka 1.2
  19. Sungjae Im 1.2 (10 Rounds)
  20. Xander Schauffele 1.1 (18 Rounds)
  21. Harold Varner III 1.1 (4 Rounds)

Note: Average Total Strokes Gained Per Round



Jordan Spieth 21-1 (Circa Sports)

Spieth has already had a couple of looks at victory in 2023 with finishes of sixth in Phoenix, fourth at Bay Hill and third at Tampa.

You could argue that he probably should have three green jackets already instead of just the one he earned in 2015.

He ranks second in the field for Strokes Gained: Around the Green over the last 36 rounds.

Justin Thomas 27-1 (Circa Sports)

While Thomas has never been in the hunt on Sunday heading to Amen Corner, he has shown glimpses that he can be a Masters champion.

He has led at halfway (2020), defied a slow start to finish eighth (2022) and fought back for 12th (2019).

JT also has Jim "Bones" Mackay on the bag. "Bones" won this thing three times with Phil Mickelson.

His typical world-class approach play has dipped a bit in 2023, but he can bring it back around in a hurry, and no one has been better for Strokes Gained: Around The Green this season.

Tony Finau 29-1 (Circa Sports)

Finau has been close many times in majors with a top five in all four majors and 10 top 10s in the 26 he's played.

The difference between those majors and this one is that Finau now has win equity and more confidence. He has won three times on the PGA Tour since playing his last major — the British Open at St. Andrews.

Finau ranks third for Strokes Gained: Approach this season, that stellar iron play helping him to a ranking of fifth overall for SG: Tee To Green.

Collin Morikawa 34-1 (Circa Sports)

It is hard to believe that it has been almost 18 months since Morikawa has won anywhere (2021 DP World Tour Championship).

It looked like he was going to open 2023 with a victory before losing a nine-shot lead in the season opener at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Meanwhile, Morikawa is back as one of the world's best iron players ranking No. 2 for Strokes Gained: Approach, No. 4 for Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and No. 4 for Strokes Gained: Tee To Green over the last 36 rounds.

Sungjae Im 44-1 (Circa Sports)

In 10 starts this year, Sungjae has missed just one cut and recorded seven top 25s, turning three of them into top 10s, with his best performance of the year coming at Torrey Pines, finishing fourth in the Farmers Insurance Open.

He’s gaining strokes in each area this season and ranks sixth in the all-around ranking on the PGA Tour.

While he largely has struggled in the other majors, we can’t say the same about Augusta, where he finished an excellent second on debut in 2020 and followed a missed cut in 2021 by returning last year to finish eighth; looking particularly good on the greens in those two top 10s.

Hideki Matsuyama 50-1 (Bet Rivers)

The 2021 Masters champion is slowly coming into form with a fifth at The Players Championship and 15th at the Valero Texas Open last week, the World No. 21 ranked 11th and 10th for Tee to Green respectively across both events.

Seven of his eight PGA Tour wins have come on Bentgrass greens. While a historically shaky putter, Matsuyama has gained with the flat stick in 10 of his last 12 events and is having the best putting season of his career.

He has been battling a neck injury off and on for the past few months but looks to be good to go this week.

Min Woo Lee 95-1 (Circa Sports)

Min Woo Lee went out in 30 (6 under) on Sunday before posting a 40 (4 over) and missing the automatic return Masters invitation by a stroke and finishing T-14.

Lee is long off the tee and outstanding around the green, plus his approach play has improved markedly over the past 12 months.

He proved he could compete with the game's elite last month with a T-6 at The Players Championship.

Note: Jason Day 40-1 and Cameron Young 45-1 were also bet two weeks ago during the WGC-Dell Match Play and were posted on the VSIN Picks-At-A-Glance page.


Mito Pereira +110 Low South American (Boyd Sports)

This is basically a head-to-head with Pereira over fellow Chilean Joaquin Niemann.

Pereira is making his debut at Augusta while Niemann makes his fourth appearance, but Niemann has never finished higher than T-35 here.

Brian Harman +195 Top Lefty (Boyd Sports)

Harman was second after the first two rounds on his way to 12th place two years ago before missing the cut on the number in 2022.

He competes against former champions Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Mike Weir in this market, none of whom have shown much form of late.

Gordon Sargent +165 Low Amateur (Boyd Sports)

Gordon Sargent, 19, is the reigning NCAA individual champion. The Vanderbilt junior also currently ranks as the World’s No. 1 Amateur.

Mito Pereira 6-1 Top Debutant (DraftKings)

Unlike the majority of his fellow LIV players, Pereira has some good recent form with an 11th-place finish in Oman on the Asian Tour to start his year paved the way for finishes of 15th, sixth and fifth on the LIV circuit. He ranked fourth, fifth and seventh for Driving Distance over that trio of events was backed up by fourth, second and first for GIR as well as 10th, 12th and first for Scrambling, with both of those field-leading numbers coming last week in Orlando.

Adrian Meronk 12-1 Top Debutant (BetMGM)

Like Pereira, Meronk is a bomber off the tee and probably takes better to seeing this course for the first time than market favorite Tom Kim.

Note: Matchups and Placement Market (Top 10/Top 20/Top 30/Top 40) bets will be released on Wednesday.

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